By G.N. Jacobs

The shoot ended early given that the director hired by the singer’s people actually had enough creativity sometimes called having the Eye, a blended skill set where a great photographer could catch the light to make America lust the mythical woman and a dramatist would create the illusion of love. In practice, a Steadi-Cam shot had caught all the emotional beats playing on MJ’s face without need for very many cut-ins and shaved the last three hours off the schedule for the expensive rental of Wrigley Field.

Peter learned these things because the 800-pound gorilla had made a point of touching him on the arm while holding the iPad with the proof copies. “Hey, Mister Parker, take a look.”

Peter caught his breath. He’d photographed MJ more than he could count on his fingers finding all the good moments. Still, these images found even more surprising depths to make the boyfriend jealous until MJ swore with the absolute sincerity of a child that hadn’t discovered lying she thought of her Tigger every moment. He needed to rent a vintage Cubs uniform, despite his hometown loyalties.

“Beautiful, Calvin,” Peter said after a long breath.

“Yeah, why I wanted her for this when her agent said she had this window for doing a gig in Chicago,” Calvin Short said. “But, I do my homework, you shoot a lot of stills of her and…”

“I should set stiffer filters on my Facebook,” Peter said realizing the awkward two seconds after saying the words.

For his part, Calvin enjoyed seeing Peter’s face play out the I Didn’t Mean to Say That tango. The man touched Peter’s arm all being right with the universe.

“Yeah, you and me both Mis…Pete,” Calvin said. “Anyway, you shoot MJ and while it’s visually different from how my guy sees her, there’s a lot of wow to how…”

“Thank you,” Peter said.

“You’re welcome,” Calvin said. “But, I’m not stupid, all resources that make my deal go better I tap. Especially, since we’re moving to the interiors tomorrow.”

“I’ll talk with your guy,” Peter agreed.

They shook hands sealing the deal. MJ sipped the last free macchiato of the day enjoying the view of her man expanding his professional horizons while the costume lady watched her like a hawk. It was, in strict point of fact, the kind of dress that most actress/models might steal off the set. She put up her hands and moved directly to the dressing room.

Peter and MJ enjoyed what passed for walking weather in Chicago dressed in jeans, but with just enough sweater to split the difference. They’d found a pizza man on a Southside street with thin slices that exceeded the Bronx and almost matched Queens. The man smiled behind his mustache providing cheesy triangles.

The museums provided a few hours of entertainment in the form of sketching MJ into all the classic pictures with women in them. MJ did the same but with far less output because she only wanted to see how Peter looked as the musketeer painted by contemporary of Rembrandt. His stance leaning on the sword made the sketch.

Wherever they went, recognition followed. Half wanted to gush over meeting a modestly famous model for many reasons. And fanboys and a few fangirls just wanted Peter to talk about last night’s bout with Tarantula Hawk, surprised that the couple hooked elbows in real life.

“Really, Mister Parker,” said a five-year-old boy with big eyes. “Why would you let the westlin’ witers do that to your girl?”

MJ stifled her laugh with a finger. “Young Man, it gets worse. Our writers don’t like what our bosses are doing and Pete and Henry made the whole thing up on the fly and…”

The boy didn’t like this answer having a brief moment where maybe the tyke would kick Peter in the shins for endangering his sweetie like that. It passed when MJ read the moment and patted his head.

“It was all pretend,” MJ said. “Henry and Peter are sort of good friends out of the ring.”

“No, Miss Watson,” the boy said doubling down. “You really like him and pretend is all untrue.”

Peter shrugged letting MJ lean in on this particular shovel.

“I do really like Peter,” MJ said. “That’s why it played so well last night. People who are really great at pretend mix the untrue with the true so it feels real…”

“But isn’t that lying?”

MJ raised an eyebrow at Peter at the curious balanced reality working behind this fan’s eyes. How to explain storytelling to a tyke that understood the choreography in wrestling but not the underlying narrative theory? Peter shrugged, just because he could fire off good notes and ideas to the writers didn’t mean he could fully explain things.

“A storyteller does that because if he pretends all the time, the person hearing or reading decides that it isn’t a fun story,” MJ said. “If he tells the real all the time, it still isn’t a fun story. The storyteller balances the two. What makes it not a lie is that the storyteller doesn’t use his words to hurt people and a liar does.”

The boy cocked his head only partially assimilating this new information from the advanced class. Peter promised the boy that he would always stick up for MJ in the story and that was enough for the boy. A pinky-swear upon the most holy of things, a list including a puppy, a Crackerjack decoder ring and his copy of the White Album. And then Peter had a wrong idea.

“Son, you seem remarkably well informed about wrestling…”

MJ caught the undercurrent and glared at Peter to no avail.

“…I wonder how you knew we have writers?” Peter asked.

“My budder told me.”

“I see, as long as you don’t listen to him about Santa Claus,” Peter said.

MJ pinched her boyfriend. The boy stuck his fingers in his ears and hummed loudly. Obviously, St. Nick was a true line in the sand.

The boys’ parents and the offending older brother appeared out of the crowd revealed in the distorted mirrored blobby thing installed as public art. The mother was worried about the boy slipping away from the family to explore shiny new things, until she saw a happy couple occupying her son’s time. Quizzical stares went around.

“Folks, Google the Green Spider,” Peter suggested.

Many selfies and autographs passed between them. The mother waited until they went a few steps before laying into the boy about wandering off. Peter created eye contact with the older brother and made the I’m Watching You gesture.

“Our future, MJ?” Peter asked.

“I hope so, Tigger,” MJ said as she leaned into his body using the kind of voice that expressed boundless hope. “But, haven’t you learned yet, Blockhead, that you absolutely don’t tell little kids about Santa?”

“I didn’t,” Peter said with mock defensiveness. “I told him not to listen when his douchebag older brother does.”

“Which is backhandedly the same thing, Dummy,” MJ asserted. “If you tell the boy not to listen, then subconsciously you also just told him that his brother might have something and…”

Peter kissed MJ’s forehead getting the first stages of melting the metaphorical butter. She kissed back to the cheers of the crowd.

“Okay, maybe, I’m using too much relationship jujitsu here…”

“Jujitsu being something I’m good at…”

“Maybe, Tigger,” MJ said. “I want a good hot dog instead of the nice place you have lined up tonight.”

“Inscribed on the corner of my eye with a needle as a lesson to the circumspect and faithful,” Peter said hand to his heart.

Arm in arm the happy couple strolled occasionally stopping people dressed for work for the 411 on a good hot dog cart. Peter’s spider senses kicked in as an unspecified reason for his arm hairs to stand on end despite his coat. MJ felt it too holding onto her man.

A beetle made of iridescent blue steel flew behind the happy couple. An aperture widened on the robo-bug’s right eye. It took a proper following distance about twenty feet.


By G.N. Jacobs

The cast itched in ways for which Bruce Wayne completely lost the words. And then there was the extra itchiness and his ass falling asleep in the chair. Misery on the half-shell, he thought as Selina rolled him down Wayne Manor’s South Hall, designed to catch the sunlight during winter.

Bruce sighed passing the armor room wondering if the claymores needed dusting and knowing that if it did, Alfred would deal with it before most people could think. He shifted in his seat possibly trolling for more attention. It worked; Selina leaned in to hug her man with maximum dispatch and then she picked up the scratching tool that reached under the cast.

Alfred brought up the rear stepping silently on the parquet floor taking pleasure at the intimacies shared in the the patch of sunlight through the window with the best view of the Gotham skyline.

“With your permission, Madame Wayne, I thought I would start dinner,” Alfred said softly.

Selina shivered slightly hearing her new title. She stood up hiding behind a finger trying to figure out the best way to make nice with Bruce’s father figure while acknowledging that her circumstances had changed. A moment of I can cook warred with if I wanted to keep cooking I shouldn’t marry the 50th richest man in America.

“I suppose the operation will go faster with someone cutting the salad,” Alfred offered. “This way.”

With that the trio took a left turn through another door to the small kitchen in a different wing of the Manor.

The plot wouldn’t score high on the list of all-time criminal plots. Two men sketched out possibilities with the precision of Patton closing his half of the Falaise Gap. The mark walked by the target at exactly 2.75 miles per hour. One man needed to get ahead in the alley between the ancient brick-clad tenements with back plastered against the grimy wall. The second man would run up from behind with a sock filled with D-cell batteries.

The goons wearing khakis and warm wool coats went back and forth trying to figure out which man should take which task. It fell to a game of Rock, Paper, Scissor. The taller man lost going Rock v. Paper and took the sock swinging it over each shoulder just to test the feel.

Dick Grayson crouched below the rail briefly wondering about his life trajectory that made hiding on rooftops seem like a good idea. The neighborhood loved its ancient and chipped brick, what with the unknown blended smell over which copious amounts of urine had splashed on top. Orange streetlights created the kinds of shadows that only the skilled in spandex could hide.

He watched the developing tactical problem of two muggers and one muggee meeting violently somewhere deep in the Gotham Narrows. The tall man waited behind a dumpster tapping a heavy sock. The shorter man hid up ahead of his confederate flicking a well-oiled butterfly knife.

Dick checked the mirror that kept the tall goon squarely in view. Sprinting over to check the other mirror, the short man replaced his knife in favor of a ten-inch length of bare rebar. He tapped the metal into his hand beating out a rhythm much like a double-time waltz.

Into this tableau walked a man clacking his expensive metal tipped cane on the crumbling sidewalks that hadn’t seen a road crew in five decades. Dick memorized the distances behind closed eyes ready to pounce.

CLACK! The well to do potential victim walked slowly ever closer. The tall man stifled a sneeze. The short man dropped his rebar…only to catch it before clattering on the pavement. Dick adjusted his dark domino mask that really shouldn’t be so effective at hiding his face from public view in both Gotham and Blüdhaven.

CLACK! Another three feet closer. The well-to-do man searched his environment checking the rooftops and the darkened recesses that just barely qualified as alleys. He nervously ran his finger along the blue felt brim of his fedora like a spitball pitcher losing the extra petroleum jelly before the umpire’s inspection.

CLACK! Closer. The man gripped the chromed ball at the tip of his cane. Dick’s sharp eyes saw the silent draw on the hilt revealing a two inches of a custom made cane blade that caught the orange sodium lights all manner of wrong. Dick searched his memory for people of this mystery man’s general build likely to use a sword cane coming up blank.

CLACK! The tall mugger shifted his weight. Dick scratched and adjusted his purple-black spandex designed to catch the dark just so. He breathed finding the silent Om getting ready for battle. Nightwing, Dick thought to himself using his spandex codename to psych up. You got this these goons are easy meat. Quick fisticuffs and then get a muffin around the corner.

CLACK! The victim stepped into the trap. The tall goon stepped out early silently stalking the easy mark with hat and briefcase. The shorter goon planted against the near wall around the corner from the mugging site. Dick checked the mirror covering the tall mugger…

A man shape resolved out of the many shadows on the street. Clearly, someone or something stood up deeper in the alley with a carbon filament light behind them. The shape wore a cloak and a bat ears on its head. Dick didn’t see because he was busy gripping the edge of the roof ready to leap.

The tall man saw the shadow on the building across the street while Dick fell to the sidewalk using a mini-descender rig to cheat gravity. SCHRING! The well-to-do man with the hat completely drew his sword.

“Aiiieeeeeeee!” shrieked the tall man as he ran anywhere but here.

“Fuck, I’m gone!” shouted the short goon joining his friend in fleeing.

Dick stood up from landing on all fours to be the last person to see the bat shadow. He shook his head before turning to the well dressed man holding a rapier in Fourth Position. Eye contact between man in a mask and a man in a hat with wicked sharp blade.

“Oh, so this is one of those cities,” the man with sword said with a piqued tone of voice.

Dick stepped across the pavement to shake the newcomer’s hand. The swordsman saluted as if standing on the saber runway and turned to run into another part of the dark. The bat shadow remained on the building across the street leaving the Hero Known as Nightwing to shake his head.

“Hey! I thought you were going to let me do this!” Dick said loudly to the source of the shadow.

The shadow shrugged.

Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce laid back on the one couch on the upper floor allowed to be grooved with frequent use. Plates of food lay half eaten on the coffee table. Selina had found the best way to share the couch with her husband without hurting his broken leg. She kissed Bruce’s forehead and pulled the VR goggles from his eyes.

“Bruce, cool robot,” Selina said. “But, don’t you think maybe you should’ve told Dick about tonight? He’s got Blüdhaven on his plate, too.”

“Ooops,” Bruce said.

By G.N. Jacobs

Peter hated rooftops in the best of days also known as the average night in New York. Tonight, he checked the flexi-tablet kept in a special pocket wrapped around his left flank twice. The wind off Lake Michigan swirled though the steel and stone canyons in generally unpredictable ways. And then there was the basic need to learn the lay of the new playground.

The scanner spat out a stone soup of garbled cop voices highlighting the cries for help from the city in the middle of the country. The police handled the calls and things would improve in the windswept morning. The Thermos with coffee handed over by MJ steamed bringing cinnamon and cocoa to his nose.

The freeze possibly kept the city calm as the cold snap to end all cold snaps moved in behind the ordinary cold wind. Tough guy and girl residents got the hell off the pavement refusing to trust the common three layers, even most of the bad guys. Electric heating coils built into the red suit took care of those chills for Peter.

He waited several hours watching the Lakefront District with visible breath clouds appearing at the mouths of the few residents out on the street. The coffee tasted better than it smelled. And maybe trying this superhero thing in a city well away from home.

The radio squawked with the first job of the night, a robbery. Six men smashed and grabbed. Peter heard the alarms over the scanner. He pushed off the gravel.

POW! Punch. Kick. Side kick. Punch. Kick. SMASH! CRUNCH! Peter shuffle stepped as if making the opening move in the Texas Two Step. WHAM! He stepped though the first goon’s chest, a schoolyard shove that only needed a partner to kneel behind the man’s knees.

The goon fell backwards in slow motion arms flopping to the sides. The window behind him vibrated with a deep booming taiko drumbeat. A microsecond later, the glass shattered destroying the painted on window sign advertising a good price on Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches, $900 or $1,200 for smart phone integration. Peter – BOOSH! – pulled the man out of the glass snowstorm with a quick hit of his web.

The incident had lasted thirty seconds, an easy affair where the spider in Peter could truss up four goons in silk before anyone would even blink. Until his metabolism crapped out for making enough silk for all six goons. Happened occasionally to be fixed with the more tasty of Aunt May’s sausage linguini that had never seen Little Italy let alone, say, Calabria, a taco plate or the Prime Rib he could afford with impunity these days as the Green Spider.

Luckily, the wrestling and MMA character had made the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man a more well rounded hero. Since the crowd liked to see Greenie use the webbing early in the bout and then finish off with standard wrestling/MMA moves, Peter had an incentive to learn a few things in various dojos and wrestling studios. Pile-drivers. Hip throws. Shoulder throws. Arm and wrist locks. And a stiff and daily improving jab. All good for robbers in front of jewelry stores…when you removed the choreography.

Still, Peter grimaced considering that perhaps this fight with the guy pushed into the window had gone too far. Relative concepts considering the madmen that sometimes showed up ready to blow up any pavement on which the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man stood. The papers everywhere divided on Spider-Man Good or Spider-Man Bad depending on how far the rubble flew. Luckily, leaving ordinary bad guys on the pavement trussed in silk with only minor lacerations, plate glass windows notwithstanding, tended to shift a few more editorials towards Spider-Man Good.

Peter patted the man that had back flopped into the jewelry store window. He groaned and spat out his third bloody tooth to the concrete. The red and blue clad costume guy standing over him seemed to love the limelight so the papers said. The spider found an extra store of food to convert into silk and trussed up the remaining thugs, going tight enough with the last one to stop any bleeding from the shards.

“Frak, the Mets,” the goon said gasping for air in his silk truss.

“At least we ain’t the Cubs,” Peter said adding far more stereotypical Queens than usual.

“Da Sox, Douchebag.”

Peter shrugged before finishing the moment with a Post-It note stuck to the man’s forehead. The absolute last touch was to shoot silk attaching a flash drive to the silk truss. He saluted and found a good place to launch the next web swing and was gone.

Peter crept into the hotel room stepping carefully in bare feet with his Spider-Man booties in hand. Even with the mild harbor noise from the lake coming through the upper floor window, every little bit of noise might…

“Tiger,” MJ called out softly.

Apparently, bare feet on wooden floors do the exact opposite of stealth. He shed the overcoat that had gotten him past the staff in the lobby and moved over to the closer bed appreciating the form of the woman lying on her side. He held up his hands as if a film director composing his shot.

“Yeah, it’s me, MJ,” Peter answered. “Stay right there.”


Peter found his cell phone and tapped the camera controls that would compensate for the low light in the room and make a museum quality art photo. When he had the image built around her red hair falling loose about the shoulder raised to the ceiling he – CLICK! – took the picture.

“When you going to put these in a gallery, Tiger?” MJ asked in her soft voice that might fall asleep again. “What the point of being your muse if…”

With that MJ fell asleep. Peter finished stripping down out of Spider-Man and hanging the suit in the special clothes bag that cleaned the clothes hung inside. He gently lifted the cover on the bedspread to spoon in behind her joining her sleeping amid the boat horns and the clattering of the El likely to run even on a cold night.

“Tell me about the bad guy,” MJ whispered coming back up out of her light sleep for just a moment. “In the morning…”

Morning brought more warmth as the remnants of a hurricane moving north fought off the cold northerlies from the lake and Canada beyond. The harbor sounds mixed with the rain to make yet another moment that…began with MJ holding out her hands wrists together and palms up. Two hours later, she picked off the dried and cracking silk that Peter naturally extruded from his wrists and thoroughly enjoyed her mini-Walk of Shame to the bathroom.

Peter allowed himself to get caught looking, a gaze she met looking over her shoulder. A piece of webbing still clasped the corner of her left eye. He pointed to his own eye creating a few seconds of entertainment playing the Mirror Confusion game with his girlfriend. MJ got the offending clump grimacing as if she’d maybe pulled off a facial mask too quickly, but she got it.

With that she gave a crooked grin as if maybe she would take her own pictures of Peter wrapped up in the thick bedspread. The moment passed and she entered the bathroom running the shower on full. A full head of steam swirled out from under the door and MJ stuck her damp head out.

“Join me, Tigger,” MJ said in her throatiest voice.

Peter crossed the floor and took MJ to him amid the steam.

Morning took them to Wrigley Field almost intimidated by the bricks and ivy. Peter sat in chinos and collared shirt trying not to look like the diva’s wrestler boyfriend. He sipped a soda from the craft service bucket and appreciated MJ’s period dress. He shook his head.

A hip-hop artist with a fondness for the Cubs and beautiful women had decided to do a themed music video for his cover of The Way We Were where he played a ball player in a somewhat forbidden relationship with MJ’s character. Peter had stepped away from the shoot finding a floor level seat above the Cubs’ dugout, just far enough away from the cameras and crew to give the illusion that Peter Parker wouldn’t be a douchebag about escorting her to the shoot.

Peter occupied himself watching the crew do their jobs. Most had cell phones tuned to the local news sites. The older people read newspapers. Didn’t matter, the headlines were the same – NEW YAAAHK’S SPIDER VIGILANTE VISITS, BREAKS HEADS AND SMASHES TEETH!

By G.N. Jacobs

Bruce Wayne carved the snow raising up a wall of white around the high school kids literally doing the same thing, attempting to get lucky in the lodge. Heather Fallon whooshed behind shouting something about how the boy owed the girl a nice dinner and room. And then the happy couple carved left into the black diamond part of the run where steep, bowl, empty and YIPE governed the description.

Judging the skill of his partner as she leaned into her turns and cutbacks, Bruce knew she was better than her giggly demeanor in the car suggested. Why he felt nothing about trusting his instinct…and the snippets of heartbreaking data heard from sources. Eventually, this ski trip would go bad and all that remained was to find out why Heather had come this far.

Bruce shot a glance over to the spot on the right of the snowy hill where Alfred had picked from the topographical map. Two figures in white that most eyes wouldn’t pick out at this distance sat in the snow sharing Alfred’s signature chicken soup. One figure wore his white in the form of pattern disruptive fatigues. The other wore hers as a pure skintight catsuit for lack of a better word. Her cowl had tiny protrusions that many likened to actual felines and she wore her purple lensed goggles on her forehead. Good, she got my message, Bruce thought.

The plan required Bruce to pull left into the bowl away from his backup. Stifling the smile he felt on the inside, he lightly leaned into the turn. The kicked up powder obscured Heather behind him.

“I wondered when you’d really come out to play!” Heather shouted. “First one down calls and the other obeys!”

When this particular powder trail settled back to the slope, the six goons hidden in the snow at various places in the middle of the run stood and jumped into the chase. Bruce committed to the bowl on the left where angels and ordinary skiers feared to tread. Heather blew a kiss and waved her men forward.

Further up the hill, Alfred held back Selina with a strong hand. “We need to see if that’s all of them.”

“He needs help!”

Alfred counted off and seeing no more goons lowered his hand. “Go for Heather. I have the rest.”

With that Alfred unzipped his weapon case producing a shotgun with a long hunting barrel that had been printed in green camouflage good for summer. He’d wrapped the butt and part of the foregrip with bright green gaffer’s tape and written NON-LETHAL ONLY on the tape with a Sharpie. Once he’d set the shoulder strap to keep the weapon in front of him, he pushed Selina down the hill.

The bowl, a nearly vertical feature where expert skiers looked good doing cutbacks nearly leaping down the hill, loomed. Even further to the left lay a straight downhill part where the skier could catch air or die based on landing correctly.

Bruce shook his head and decided on the bowl. He had three seconds until he hit the point of no return for any of these dangerous choices. Two goons sought all the air they could leaping off the moguls. Gravity brought them closer.

BOOM! The already loud 12-gauge shotgun reverberated off the nearby cliffs. Luckily, this whole ski run had been posted with the signage promising that all avalanche remedies had been taken courtesy of a management that preferred not to be sued.

Alfred had loaded modified taser shells in keeping with the officially non-lethal ethos of his employer. This shell added fins, vanes and heat seeking head to assist guidance towards its target. The seeker centered the warm purple blob of a hot human being and the controls moved to make it so…

ZZZZZZT! A combination of the taser prongs and adhesive on the blunt face of the shell buried into the first disposable goon. A man who actually wore a red T-shirt under his black tactical skiing gear. For good measure – ZZZZT! – the taser shell added a second jolt to make sure.

Driven by a need to actually have a meaningful conversation that included an apology for the recent past, Selina became the craziest skier on the hill. Screaming like a banshee she pulled on her ski poles seeking to pull every micro-joule of food energy in her body. She bent her knees and chose the largest mogul to hit.

Bruce mapped out his course down the steep parts using the top of the bowl with an outlet into the downhill. Left. Right. Walls of snow rose up with each cut. Quick flashes looking over his shoulder told him that Alfred had dropped at least three goons into the snow. Selina had closed with Heather to a distance of a perhaps five feet.

The women leaned into their chase shouting the kind of insults that women just shouldn’t hear. The nearest goon reached behind with his ski pole to release his boots. And this flying man bellowed at full volume falling downhill. Bruce crouched down letting the body fall overhead possible cracking a shoulder on a rock.

Bruce – BOOM! BOOM! – reacted over his shoulder seeing Alfred drop the final two goons with his taser shells. Selina had caught up to Heather on skis and had yanked the skiers away from the bowl and steep downhill onto the edge of the intermediate part of the slope off to the right.

Selina and Heather fought amid the discarded skis and poles. Punch. Kick. Block. POW! SOCK-O! Kick. Block. Chop. Slap. And then Heather found the reach for Selina’s dark hair peeking out from her orange ski cap. Pulling hair changed the fight.

Selina brought up her fingers trusting the studded claws in her gloves and broke free. Heather hauled off with a left hook to catch Muhammad Ali unawares. Selina – TH-WHACK! – saw stars taking this fearsome shot. Heather finished this part of the fight and quickly snapped on a mismatched set of skis to resume the chase with Bruce.

Bruce led the way down the hill. The few skiers not involved slid to a stop to pull out the cells phones to get the video. Four expert, possibly Olympic level skiers fell/drove with the gravity. Selina scrunched down into her crouch trying to steal a few more inches with Heather.

Bruce landed squarely centered over his skis. Heather and Selina landed together throwing hard elbows every which way somehow maintaining their collective balance through the hard landing. The many hipsters capturing the moment for social media hooted and hollered, possibly easily impressed. Alfred followed behind barely touching the mountain and leaping into a spectacular airborne show that included him acrobatically falling through Pitch, Yaw and Roll.

Bruce landed zooming into the lower bunny hill portion of the ski run. Selina’s struggle ended well…sort of, when she threw the mother of all hard elbows at Heather and pushed the redhead into…Bruce Wayne. Alfred landed perfectly just in time to see a tangle of bodies rolling down the snowpack.

WHAM! CLANG! Bruce and Heather hit the metal chair lift all kinds of wrong. CRAAAAACK! And that was Bruce Wayne’s left leg. Silence filled the valley allowing the fluffy powder to fall back to the slope.

By G.N. Jacobs

Peter Parker breathed easy feeling his pre-match ritual as a wave of tingling that started in his toes washing up to the nerve endings on his scalp. He had other sensations loosely classified as tingling that didn’t apply tonight, which said a quiet night in New York or…right Chicago, the show was in Chicago tonight. He hummed the Battle Hymn of the Republic with made up lyrics about his opponent tonight swatting his hands together beating a crescendo likened in the wrestling and MMA press to Mahler’s Funeral March for its devastating psychological effect on the other guy in the Octagon or ring.

Peter had just finished the part in the song about pile-driving yet another sweaty man-child with a sweet disposition outside the arena into the mat until he begged for mercy. The other senses he didn’t talk about when it was his turn to combatively take the microphone kicked in revealing in the form of hairs standing on end that someone entered his locker room. The Tarantula Hawk.

“Hey, Hank,” Peter said as he turned to see his opponent and sometime friend.

Henry Hawkes raised a hand shifting the line of his ring entrance costume, a bird-man suit with feathers and plastic beak. “Hey, Pete.”

The wrestlers stood close to clasp hands and chest bump. Standing about the same height, there proved great disparity in the respective builds. Henry filled out his just under six feet physique with the muscles most come to expect from professional wrestlers. Peter might have been the same height but, while he had all kinds of definition, he just couldn’t build the same muscle mass requiring waivers to fight in the Open Class in both wrestling and MMA.

“Look, Pete, I know you like to be alone in the five minutes before show,” Henry said. “But…”

“But, Brock and minions dug their heels in and locked out the writing staff,” Peter said. “Your worst kept secret is you’ve been romancing Heather in Story and you don’t want to use the choreography for tonight.”

“Yeah, the size of it, Pete,” Henry said.

“You sure? You win,” Peter said.

“If she’s not writing it, who cares?”

“Sure, you have any ideas?”

Both wrestlers nearly killed the show shrugging instead of stepping up with an idea.

“Crap, we’re doomed,” Peter said softly as the chanting of the crowd out on the floor rose up through the many walls of the arena. “Usually, this is…”

“Where you admit to your worst kept secret being that you’re the anonymous douchebag crank fan that writes to Story suggesting all kinds of inventive stories to play out,” Henry probed. “Heather tells me stuff, Bro.”

“Yeah, but I’m totally screwed on the fly here.”

“Heather also tells me you’ve never written for your own character, Spider-Man,” Henry said in a teasing tone. “Some kind of ethics thing, she thought. She also said ‘give it time.’”

An idea struck Peter with the metaphorical weight of more than enough bricks to suggest an actual good idea instead of horrible that merely sounded good, like the classic – “It was a dark and stormy night” – by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. It played out with chuckles almost leading to full guffaws.

“See, Pete, I told you Heather was smart,” Henry said.

“Whatevs, Hank,” Pete said. “You still win. Do me a favor, have your manager call MJ in.”

“MJ, the redhead card girl?” Henry asked. “Oh, I see. Your second worst kept secret.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Sure anything else?”

“I’ll have Frank switch us with Tom and Mike’s match,” Peter said. “We might need a few minutes of rehearsal.”

“Good to see someone has an idea, Pete,” Henry said.

They bumped fists and Henry left the locker room.

The air in the arena just beyond the tunnel could go to anyone’s head. Word that Spider-Man and Tarantula Hawk would square off for the first time in the Chicago pay-per-view had spread. Within three days offering a pound of flesh nearest thy heart to a scalper might get you a nosebleeder seat in the top rafters that not even the basketball team in residence liked selling.

In eighteen months, Peter had come to complete awareness how much the crowd charged him up going from a local act from New York to a splashy middle of the card performer that hyped up the crowds. Already the wrestling press speculated why Spider-Man in his green spandex suit hadn’t moved up in the narrative ranks where they could write a championship story for him. Peter had perfected the art of “no comment” and “I just wrestle here,” further stoking the talk.

Back to the present, Mary Jane Watson played her part. She wiggled with the extra firepower expected of a card girl suddenly promoted to the narrative instead of eye candy. She put her arms around Peter’s neck.

“Finally, Tiger,” MJ whispered blowing warm air scent with the mint of her recently brushed teeth. “I’ll be a good wishbone.”

“You sure?”

“Of course, we go semi-public with us doing the kissy-face. Hank plays heel and grabs me. You spool up going pistols at dawn over my pretty little head. You lose at just the right moment. I slap Hank showing that I’m worth fighting for. The bookers set up a rematch…hopefully after Brock makes nice with the writers. I miss anything?” MJ said in a listing tone to her whisper.

“No…wait the slap wasn’t…”

“Improv, Tigger,” MJ asserted in a whisper. “I’m part of the scene too. I slap Henry or I don’t play. I only play fickle witches when there’s a paid writing staff.”

“Oh, okay,” Peter agreed. “You know, you didn’t actually answer the question.”

“Yes, I did,” MJ said adding the kind of wiggle reserved for the hotel or a few minutes from now. “Actress, Tigger, I play things for a living. You won’t believe this, but that telenovela audition in LA I didn’t get was going to have me play exactly this kind of scene.”


“Yeah, Pete, something like that,” MJ said.

With that she brushed his face with her lips and pulled down the mask before swatting him on the ass as his entrance music and wild cheers rose to a fever pitch.

The bare bones of the match. Spider-Man taunted the Tarantula Hawk at the microphone, something about being the first spider in the world to survive the dive bombing attack of the dreaded tarantula hawk. Henry threw off his feathered entrance costume and expertly expressed that the redhead on the green spider’s arm had also promised the bird-man the same affections. They slapped each other and called out vicious deadly insults.

The match began in earnest. The crowd ate it up catching its collective breath watching MJ sell being the damsel caught in the middle between Titans. When grabbed she showed off being far more fleet of foot than either wrestler spinning just so and hitting every mark. She emoted worthy of that telenovela part that she couldn’t decide between such strong men.

In the ring, Peter and Henry busted out every trick they’d been taught in both wrestling charm school and an actual acting class. They did pile drivers, suplexes and several backhand slaps while stomping the mat to create the illusion of fearsome blows. The jujitsu moves brought the crowd to a fever pitch.

Tarantula Hawk had an aerial motif and gracefully used the top rope and turnbuckles to go vertical. At just the right moments, Spider-Man found new ways to use the web-shooters at his wrists to use webs to gain the upper hand. He laid a clothesline across the ring pushing the temporarily grounded Tarantula Hawk into it. He swung through the lights eating up the rising cheers from the crowd with a spoon.

Halfway though the third round, Peter and Henry shared a nod. The shifting tides of the choreographed match turned permanently against the spider. Peter mimed running out of web fluid frantically begging his corner man for more cartridges to no avail. Henry then took three passes slowly dismembering his opponent’s equilibrium.

The match ended when the Tarantula Hawk threw Spider-Man into a guided cartwheel to a landing flat on his back. Good thing, Peter had gotten used to large bodies falling on him. Henry grabbed MJ’s elbow only to – THWHACK! – get slapped for real. MJ then played up coming to the aid of the stunned spider. The crowd built the noise well past 105 decibels. All three players in the scene had to mentally fight to refrain from bowing.

By G.N. Jacobs

The society page photograph landed about as well a crash test dummy dropped from a great height with depleted uranium bricks tied to its feet. Previously, while any image of Bruce Wayne and some other woman could give Selina Kyle a brief nasty moment, this one capturing a ski trip to Vermont was the first after her own very public breakup. At least she’d timed it before having to treat the deposit as a walkway or sitting through the final dress fitting. Shrieking, she threw a coffee cup against the wall.

Selina wore a rare white version of her “work” outfit to blend in with the snow and watched people carve down the slopes only to climb back up in the chair lift. The body language on the redhead holding an elbow that she thought would be hers just made her scream inside. She lowered the binoculars wrapped in white canvas to adjust the tape covering the lens to prevent flares with the sun high and behind her prey.

She sat in the snow trusting the electrically heated long-johns to keep her seat warm. Two thousand meters down the hill, Bruce carved left showing off for his new arm candy. Red laughed. Bruce laughed but with an undercurrent of sadness that suggested this one would be like many others, temporary even without Selina’s dark fantasies of helping this inevitable breakup along.

Resting her elbows on her knees, the rational part of her fought to have her stand up and trudge through the thigh-high snow out of sight of the commercial ski run for the next Uber out of the resort. The growing irrational part stewed up all kinds of animus towards the woman. The skiers took the next chair up to go again.

Selina watched this with naked eyes and lenses fuming at her missed opportunity. She broke off a stick from a nearby fir tree to sketch her plans in fresh patch of powdery snow. Using stick figures, Selina contrived to push her rival off the hill, while Bruce and friend carved up the upper slope of the intermediate-expert run.

By the time, the skiers had made it halfway down racing around the small handful of other uninvolved skiers cutting up huge rooster tails of powder worthy of the videos typically looped in certain Hawaiian themed hamburger chains, Selina had sketched five more plans. Plans with comically increasing complexity. She needed an 800 number that didn’t actually exist.

About ten feet to her left, a mound of snow she’d discarded as part of the natural environment moved. Silently a man wearing snow camouflage with a pattern known to be British issue from thirty years ago stood up out of his hide shaking off the powder. Stepping carefully, he approached Selina from her blind side. She didn’t notice being fully engrossed with the doings of Bruce and the redhead.

“Ms. Kyle, I thought I might find you here,” Alfred Pennyworth said gently. “Up until now, such jealousy has been completely unlike you.”

A moment after her surprised yelp, she calmed down ever so slightly. The older man’s stealth rivaled hers leaving Selina to wonder what Gotham would have been like if Bruce and Alfred switched places more often. He put out an arm as he sat next to her and she curled up in the embrace with a sense of trust that few engendered.

“I want him back, Alfred,” Selina said with the tone of a little girl apologizing for a huge mistake.

“Of course, you do, Ms. Selina,” Alfred said softly. “I taught Master Bruce everything he knows about reading body language. When you made up that big noise about breaking it off because he needs his pain to be the most effective version of himself, you were lying.”

“And faithful father figure that you are, you told him?” Selina asked in the tone of already having the answer.

“Yes,” Alfred said. “But, he already knew.”

Alfred and Selina sat silently a moment watching the antics further down the ski run. Bruce and friend found an empty part of the hill with which to show off and do tricks. It was now that she noticed that Alfred’s camouflage included a backpack and two shoulder bags. One clearly contained some kind of shoulder arm. The other was a Thermos that the man unslung from his shoulder. Meanwhile, the skiers completed another run and made their way to the lift again.

Selina watched Alfred’s face as he unscrewed the cap allowing the aroma of chicken soup to fill the air. The man expected something to happen that had yet to occur. He handed over the first cup to Selina and poured the spare for himself. He raised an eyebrow taking in the repeated plans for mayhem scratched in the snow.

“Remove the snowy mis-en-scene and you might have a future writing Roadrunner cartoons,” Alfred observed.


“Your plans to enact what can only be termed Biblical vengeance upon an interloper, Ms. Selina,” Alfred said pointing to the snow. “Let’s see. Plan Two requires a catapult and rocket skates. Plan Three is quite novel, repurposing the paint on train tunnel gag to make a tiger pit in the snow. Plan Four utilizes a rocket toboggan. Plan Five…actually neither I nor the gatekeepers at Looney Tunes would decipher it. So omit that one when you apply. Plan Six, you parasail.”


“Speaking at the level of pop psychology, these ornate cartoon vengeance plans are your rational self fighting against your irrational self that came up with Plan One,” Alfred said. “You don’t really want to push your rival off the cliff on the back side of this resort.”


“You’ve cleaned up the real reason you broke it off with Master Bruce,” Alfred said. “You’re annoyed he didn’t wait a bit longer before ‘moving on’ and you want some way back.”


“Yes, he is,” Alfred said. “You have my support in this regard. You and he have been circling towards this moment for nineteen years, four months and six days.”

“Almost to the hour,” Selina said whistling. “Support? Based on…”

“The things you said during the break up moment are true for literally all other serious contenders for the position of Mistress Wayne,” Alfred said. “But, you are the most likely to find that middle ground where he continues his calling, but finds time to be happy at home. Like a police officer or Special Ops chap. So you have my support.”

Seen through binoculars, the skiers leaned over their skis at the top of the hill. Alfred’s reassurance warmed up Selina almost as much as the chicken soup. And then she thought things out.

“Hey, wait! I’m supposed to be here!”


“He picked that redheaded fluff bomb because with her enhanced features, she’s most likely to piss me off to lure me here!”

“A side calculation, Ms. Selina, but yes.”

“Side calculation? And you’re going to spill about bringing a rifle to a normal ski trip, when?”


“Wait! She only plays a fluff bomb on TV!”

“Bacon in the pan, Ms. Selina.”

“He’s baiting some kind of trap for her! The loveably moronic love of my life is camped out in a deadfall trap…Oooh! If he lives I will kill him myself!”

“And now we’re barbecuing with gas, Ms. Selina.”

“I didn’t bring skis.”

“I have two pairs with poles still buried in my hide,” Alfred said. “One should fit you and has boots to match.”

© 2018 G.N. Jacobs

It’s amazing how much weird writer/musician/creator stuff lands on me through my Facebook feed. Just have to have that programmable music box, where I’ll likely be the weirdo composer writing for harmonica and said music box? Facebook. That amazing inconvenient ReMarkable digital writing tablet (see post)? Facebook. And don’t get me started on several links promising to make me a better writer, yet again…Facebook. And then there was the link to I Write Like [dot] com.

A simple promise…insert quite a bit of text in the box and they’ll tell me the published writer with an actual career or legendary deceased status that my writing most matches. Oh, wow…yet another bit of catnip for me to while away the two minutes this app takes out of my not actually writing time! Sign me up.

Long story short, I came up Cory Doctorow. And just because I’ve been around enough Internet oddities, like Facebook’s algorithm and everyone’s love/hate with the same, I’m going to run these things twice. Hell, I’m even going to do the old fashioned thing and click through from my Google prompt, just in case, and use different blocks of prose. Still, Cory Doctorow.

I’ve never read Mr. Doctorow, whom, until I looked him up on Wikipedia, I’d assumed was related to the other Mr. Doctorow, E.L. Doctorow. Apparently, Doctorow is as common as Smith in some parts of the world. Learn something new everyday from Wikipedia (except when Wiki is wrong). Full disclosure, I at least have a couple old paperbacks written by E.L. Doctorow, deemed absolutely irrelevant to this story, on my cluttered bookshelves. And you’ll understand why I’ve yet to read him too…as in have you seen my personal library?

Intrigued by the result of Cory Doctorow, I did quickly download the ePub/Kindle files for one of his books. As of this writing, it’s still unread and driven by whatever personal deadlines I put on me for this site; I just went ahead with this post. I figured I’d just talk about what I perceive about my own style (assuming you can trust me to see without blinders).

But, I did pay attention to a few tidbits in Mr. Doctorow’s biography as reported on Wikipedia and Amazon, just in case there’s is something to the theory that certain aspects of writing style related to similarities in background. We are both more or less from the Gen X cohort and his extensive publishing record is that of someone who didn’t self-diagnose as an ADHD poster child.

He writes about technology and related issues with far more expertise than me. I just break machines and software and write about the experience with an eye towards letting people know how the tech actually makes the user’s life and productivity better. In this vein, despite being asked over the years to plug the right cables into the TV or the stereo system by even less technically proficient family members, I’ve always seen myself as a technological chimpanzee.

I pound keys until I make it work and learn in the process. And you better believe there’s a direct reference to the famous thought experiment of infinite chimpanzees with infinite typewriters eventually producing War & Peace. I am a smarty pants which shows up in odd ways.

The most interesting similarity, sort of, between Mr. Doctorow and me is in our feelings about copyrights. He very much believes that current copyright law and procedure are slightly restrictive to how things work in the new digital economy and should be adjusted accordingly. For my part, when it comes to my words no way am I nearly as progressive; I write a book, no way do I not fight for that copyright under the current law throwing the kind of elbows to make your grandchildren feel it.

However, I have said this, “if there were some way to ensure the musicians and composers still got paid fairly, I would advocate for rules that only apply to music that acknowledge the largely derivative nature of the art form.” This is simply because we live in a musical universe where the drinking song To Anacreon in Heaven becomes the setting for The Star Spangled Banner. Or John Brown’s Body becomes The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Or that We’re Not Going to Take It Anymore and Oh, Come All Ye Faithful share the same tune. And let’s not forget that pretty much every third title in the Classical database is “Variations on a Theme by…” But, of course, more on these subjects to come later…in my composing column.

So anyway, I’ve listed some basic however tenuous similarities between Mr. Doctorow and myself. It will fall to someone else who has actually built an academic career analyzing the interplay between the background and life arc of the writer and the style of how those words appear on the page to say more. I just write, Man. And dark ugly truth, I hoped for Alexandre Dumas as translated into English. Pipe dream there.

And so now we have the artless segue to what I perceive about my own style versus Mr. Doctorow, so that when we collectively put my books side by side we’ll see if this site’s algorithm knows its stuff.

First off, I try to avoid To Be sentences which might be the first indicator that I have approximately three minutes of journalism training including reading Shrunk & White’s Elements of Style. I will assume that Mr. Doctorow with his considerably more than three minutes journalism training and work experience was taught to write more or less the same way. We’ll see when I quiet the noise monster that sometimes keeps me from reading, instead of writing, and I block out the time for his book. Score one for common training methods creating a common style instead of any high-falutin’ psychological analysis.

I shoot for paragraphs of three to five sentences of maybe twenty-five words each anchored by an active verb. Again, see the bit above about which books I read and classes I’ve taken for why my style looks the way it does. But, I also drop in sentences with a single digit number of words where I’ve semi-consciously dropped out the To Be construction. My memory of the millions of words written to date says this is a direct consequence of several journalism classes, mixed with just sitting down to do my words.

If you put the points of the preceding paragraphs together, you’ll understand why me writing like Alexandre Dumas defines pipe dream for the next three centuries. In the 19th Century the writing ethic of short sentences had yet to take hold. And then you have to figure that Dumas wrote in the French of the time and that I would be taking style cues from one of many translators, not exactly the same thing. I must just love any story with swords and has a cool bunch of friendship, the kind that start with a fistfight.

Getting back to my style, it’s pretty clear that I break my own rules when I feel I need to. I have a bunch of and so, first off and other transitional indicators in this very post. And other times I strangle these quirks in their crib when I edit. I love me my ellipses and M-dashes. I probably continually give Mr. Blatz (the good English teacher of my past seen through rose colored glasses) conniptions concerning my fluid usage of commas, until I get to edit the damn thing.

A style has more to it than than sentence structure. Choice in content also applies. I write oddball stuff with an occasional hint of black humor. Comes from being the kid that read the Bible cover to cover by the time I was fifteen. Pretty much, I have Greco-Roman mythology backwards and forwards and do okay with the Norse. I read Shakespeare because I can having flushed how certain bad teachers tried to kill the Bard for me.

I seem go for a small handful of basic character types. Sometimes I’m just knowingly doing Bilbo Baggins, the stalwart fellow of good cheer launched into a great quest by external forces. Other times, I’ll do an empire building story where a kinder gentler version of Julius Caesar builds a unified society and then prevents it from degenerating into tyranny. I also greatly respect journalists and certain kinds of lawyers more than even Shakespeare says I should. And sometimes, I’m just doing an off-kilter version of myself acting out my fantasies of any of the above. Lastly, all of my characters are either huge music fans and/or play instruments as is my current aspiration, loving it LOUD.

Presumably, these points will be where Mr. Doctorow and I will diverge the most in the side-by-side analysis. It was fun to learn these things even if the egotistical part of me wants to get into the database so that people will one day write like G.N. Jacobs. Don’t worry, there are pills for that. So with that…get back to your own writing!